The whispers of "what could have been" often waft like tantalizing wisps of alternate realities. An intriguing talk comes from The Last of Us, one of HBO's biggest hits in years, with the revelation that the Oscar-winning actor, Matthew McConaughey was in talks to portray the show's grizzled lead, Joel. But, alas, the wheel of fate spun differently, landing us in a world where Pedro Pascal rightfully embodies the essence of the iconic character.
It's easy to forget that Pedro Pascal's casting wasn't as "sure" of a thing, at least, in the eyes of audiences. In the lead-up to the casting confirmation, word on the grapevine was that Mahershala Ali and Matthew McConaughey were both considered for the role.
One of the showrunners, Craig Mazin, shed some light on the tantalizing possibilities on the Happy Sad Confused podcast, where he unraveled the narrative of the show's casting saga.
The surprising revelation came to light as Mazin reminisced about the casting process from so long ago. "I actually never talked to Mahershala. I did talk to Matthew," he confessed, adding, "I wouldn’t say that it was serious, it was more of just like, 'Hey, here’s something we can talk about.'" The coveted role was always destined for Pascal, who was initially out of reach due to prior commitments. However, fortune smiled upon the series as the tides turned, and the possibility of Pascal becoming Joel became more real.
The genesis of Pascal's journey to Joel was as thrilling as the character's own odyssey across the ruins of civilization. A call from his agent announcing his potential availability led to a whirlwind courtship. A script was hastily sent over, and then a subsequent Zoom meeting served as the first spark. "Then we got on a Zoom and had what I think is the most wonderful Zoom I’ve ever had, just love at first sight," Mazin gushed, echoing the sentiments of countless fans who couldn't imagine anyone else as Joel.
Mazin's candid admission conjures images of a parallel universe where McConaughey, the charismatic Texan, steps into Joel's worn-out boots. "I’m sure there’s a different universe where it’s another actor," Mazin mused, adding, "And look, Matthew McConaughey is an amazing actor, I’m sure it would have been great but it would have been different. And I like the one that we made so what can I say?" His words, reminiscent of the rugged, survivor spirit of the series, articulate the road taken and the road passed, subtly affirming that the world we inhabit with Pascal's Joel is indeed the better one.
Now, Pascal's face is synonymous with Joel, the weather-beaten survivor with a heart of gold. Yet, it's fascinating to think how close we were to an alternative reality, with McConaughey's signature "Alright, alright, alright" possibly punctuating Joel's somber dialogues.
So, what awaits fans in the wastelands of The Last of Us Season 2? Bella Ramsey revealed that filming wouldn't begin until late this year or early next. Hence, it seems we're in for a bit of a wait, with the expected release being towards the end of 2024 or early 2025, especially in light of the WGA strike.
With filming not expected to start anytime soon, we're just hoping that Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann find the perfect Abby to portray the conflicted "villain" of the show's future seasons.